Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 2 (Geoffrey Gatza)

Gatza, Geoffrey
Black Diamond Golden
Boy Takes Bull By Horns

Given to me by the author in January 2007. Inscribed.

Still thinking about Ecuador after yesterday's post. More detailed and specific memories are flooding in, which I might need to address with several posts.

I'm thinking of the bus ride from Cotocollao to La Marín. It took about 40 minutes to get from the volunteer center to CMT #1, as the site at La Marín was called (we lived on the grounds of CMT #2 -- "CMT" stands for "Centro Del Muchacho Trabajador, Working Boys' Center). CMT owned a small white passenger bus, which probably seated around twenty. Our driver was named Vicente, a middle-aged Ecuadorian guy, dark-complexioned, neatly dressed, his hair parted to the side, a mouth full of gold teeth.

When we mounted the bus each morning he'd be playing Cumbia music on the cassette player. After we got to know him, we'd trade off listening to his music and playing tapes of American music. There were at least six Americans on the bus each morning -- myself, E., J., K., Ja, & A, about whom I'll have more to say later. We all had different tastes, so the ride down in the morning could be pretty tense if something played that was disagreeable to one of us. I think I brought more music and more different kinds of music down with me, so it was usually my cassette that was playing, and thus usually me who took the brunt of the criticism when people didn't like it!

Cotocoallao, where the ride began, is a massive set of hilly neighborhoods on the northwestern edge of Quito. Quito is nestled in a valley in the Andes mountains, and surrounded by several active volcanoes. Our morning drive took us along the Occidental Highway, which skirts the mountains and gives an elevated view of the city as you enter, passing through the "new city," with its modern shopping malls and fast food joints catering to the elite, down into the old city, which is gorgeous and crumbling and filled with everything from tourists to beggars to street venders to noisy, pollution-spewing diesel buses.

Apart from the music, silence reined on the morning drive. Most of us were exhausted from waking early and from having worked twelve hours the day before, as we did five days a week. My friend J, who is the brother of my other friend, J., the one of the "Phaedra" incident in NYC, would always take the back seat. He had a girlfriend, also J., back home, and they wrote long romantic letters several times a day. He'd lean his head against the back window and stare outside, seemingly oblivious to anything but his thoughts of her.

The one thing I recall very clearly was the exit from the highway that let us off into city traffic. The bus had to exit on a turnaround, which went around a pond, in the center of which a statue of several gaunt, bronze figures, somewhat reminiscent of Giacometti, seemed to be walking single file along the surface of the water. On days when the water level was a little low, you could just see the top of the base on which the figures stood peeking out from the water. They seemed almost to move if you fixed your stare on them as the bus wheeled around the circle.

The exit led us down through some of the newer neighborhoods and into the bustling old town, where the streets were filled with people. I was watching some big hollywood movie a few years ago filmed in Ecuador, and remember there was a shot of some big movie star poking around in the market near where I worked. I can't remember who she was -- maybe Angelina Jolie? It's not important.

Anyhow, we'd eventually work our way through the traffic and the people to CMT #1, a huge white concrete building that sat on a hill overlooking the bus turnaround. From the giant plate glass windows in the office, you could see out over the whole area.

I remember once there was a bus strike because the price of gasoline had risen. Bus drivers operate in co-ops, semi-independently. Some of the bus drivers tried to keep working. I remember looking out those windows as a lone bus came streaming down the empty street towards the turnaround. A mob of people suddenly attacked, throwing stones at the driver and trying to run him off the road for having broken the strike. I remember I could see a guy hanging out from the back of the bus trying to jump out and escape. That night, we drove back to our home closed up in the back of a panel truck because we were worried we might be attacked in our little mini-bus by people thinking our driver was breaking the strike.

from Black Diamond Golden Boy Takes Bull By Horns

Merlin Dwells on Death

Cranes fish for their lunch
scooping water with flesh and bone
the soul swims up stream

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